And just like that – Santa is gone for another year. But Jesus remains all year long. His gifts are year-round.
Santa comes but once a year; Jesus is an ever-present help; Santa fills your stocking with goodies; Jesus supplies all your needs.
Santa comes down your chimney uninvited; Jesus stands at your door and knocks, and then enters your heart when invited.
Santa Claus lets you sit on his lap; Jesus lets you rest in His arms; Santa may make you chuckle; Jesus gives you joy that is your strength; Santa lives at the North Pole; Jesus is everywhere present; Santa says you better not cry; Jesus says “come unto me all you who are weary.”
I wrote this three years ago – but wondering again this year – after all the decorations are put up, after all the Christmas songs are put away until next year, after we have posted all our pictures on FB, has the baby made a difference in your life for 2021?
Brrrrr! It’s so cold outside. So today while staying snug inside I read and thought one more time on the Christmas story which we have just observed. Now it’s time to move forward and begin thinking about spring and about the resurrection story.
But one writer I read during the Christmas season still speaks to me.
…the Christmas story is not just for observing, but for participating. A long time ago, Jesus Christ was born. But today, Christ is born in us. And so we would be wise to spend some time wondering with the sheep and the shepherds, how does this baby change my life?
Last year I shared stories of women who played a big part in history – yet are often ignored in our history books and their stories remain largely untold.
I wonder if anyone who read those blogs even remember those women now.
Dot Graden, Ann Caracristi, Virginia Adaholt, Jeannette Rankin and Katherine Johnson were all women who played an important role in the history of our country.
Deborah, Jael, Shiphrah and Puah were given small mention in the Bible, yet played important roles in the history of Israel as told in the Bible.
As we approach the Christmas season and hear the Christmas story, I wonder if anyone will stop and ask “Who are these women” that Matthew mentions in his opening chapters telling of the birth of baby Jesus?
Matthew’s first chapter is written to show that Jesus descended from the father of the nation, Abraham, and also from the kingly line of David. He mentioned many men but surprisingly he includes the names of five women.
Who were these women? Why were their included in this list?
(NOTE: Of course we have no idea what these women looked like. These pictures are only an artist’s idea. I found it interesting in searching for pictures of Biblical characters that the majority of them are white even though we know the people of the Old Testament were from the Middle East and I am sure Jesus was not blue-eyed and blonde.)
The first one mentioned is Tamar. Her story is told in Genesis 38.
As you read her story you might wonder what this woman, who was probably a Canaanite and who solicited sex from her father-in-law, is doing here. A daughter-in-law of Judah, after her first husband died she married his brother. This was the custom when a man died leaving no children. On the death of her second husband, Judah promised to give her his third son as a husband when he was old enough to be married. However, he had no intention to do so. When it became apparent to Tamar that she would not have another husband, she posed as a prostitute and solicited a sexual encounter with Judah. This very questionable action on her part was her pursuit of justice for herself. Remember, there was no social security in those days and women without a husband or children often had little or no resources to sustain them. When Judah realized what Tamar had done to make sure she was taken care of he said “she is more righteous than I am.”
Then there was Rahab. We learn of her in the book of Joshua.
The Old Testament says she was a prostitute in the city of Jericho.
Not only a prostitute but a Gentile, we find Rahab had heard the stories of how God had delivered the Israelites out of Egypt and had led them in the defeat of King Sihon and King Og just across the the Jordan River from Jericho. Clearly she believed that Israel’s God was the true God as she hid the spies sent to check out Jericaho. She told them, “I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you….for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.”
Rahab clearly believed that the God of the Israelites was the true God and she was willing to risk her life to help them. She also apparently believed this was the way to save her own life. Looking out not just for herself, she asked for protection for her family. Her faith in the God of the Israelites saved her and her family when Jericho was defeated by Joshua’s army. She later married Salmon and gave birth to a son, Boaz, who we meet later in another woman’s story. Jewish tradition says Salmon was one of the spies she hid.
Our third woman’s story is given in the book of Ruth.
The story of Ruth is a beautiful love story. Not only the story of love between Ruth and her husband, Boaz, but also Ruth’s love and commitment to her mother-in-law, Naomi. Ruth was also a Gentile. She had married into Naomi’s family when the family had settled in Moab trying to escape a famine in their own land of Israel. While there Naomi’s husband and her two sons died, leaving Naomi and her two daughters-in-law widows. Naomi decided she needed to return to her own land and her own family. One of the daughter-in-law stayed in Moab with her own people, but Ruth refused to allow Naomi to go back home alone. Her Words to Naomi are often used in wedding ceremonies. “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” Once back in the land of Israel, Ruth continued to do all she could to take care of her mother-in-law. Read the beautiful love story of how Ruth came to find a new husband in Boaz, son of Rahab.
Our fourth woman is Bathsheba. We really know little about this woman except in the context of King David’s adultery and later murder. Caught in a difficult situation and in that culture, forced into betraying her husband, she suffered not only the death of her husband but also the death of her child by David. But it appears she remained resilient and later she gave David another son who became his father’s heir. She is a good example of how life may put us in situations over which we have little control, but God is still faithful.
Of course, we all know the story of the last woman mentioned, Mary. What a story it is! A simple young girl living in a town far from the hustle and bustle of the day is told by an angel that she is going to have a child. Imagine the fear that would fill her heart. To be pregnant before marriage was an offence punishable by stoning. Who would believe her story? Yet we all know her response was “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.”
These women and their stories tell us much about God and his love. He chose those we would have never have picked to be the earthly ancestors of God. Yet, in selecting these women, I think it reveals hope to us all.
God can and will use anyone who is willing.
God and and will use the weak and the foolish.
Those people may reject – God can and will use.
I think it all shows just how much the story of Christmas is about Jesus coming to be “one of us.” To take on our weaknesses, to know hunger, cold, pain. His birth, his earthly life show us that he truly can relate to us who are weak, with faults and in need of a Savior.
I first posted this 6 years ago. This Christmas as we face gatherings that may be smaller than usual, family and friends we will miss seeing as Covid has restricted travel, it could be easy to get depressed or start complaining. I just want to encourage everyone to remember while our table may not be as loaded with food as usual, we are still much better off than many. Reach out and help someone this year. I saw a quote on FB that says it so well. “This may not be the year to get everything we want, but the year to appreciate what we have.”
What a great feast we had at Thanksgiving! Turkey, dressing, scalloped potatoes, corn, sugared carrots, salad, homemade bread, and of course, pumpkin pie.
After our Thanksgiving meal we had so much turkey left over, we cut it up and made soup with noodles and chicken broth. It was delicious and we used up our left over homemade bread with lots of butter!
Now it’s time to shop for the Christmas meal.
So many choices.
Shall we do turkey again or ham? Maybe some Cornish hens? Scalloped potatoes or mashed? Maybe some sweet potatoes? Same salad or a different one? Homemade bread again or shall we do dinner rolls? And dessert? Pecan pie, apple pie, banana pudding, peach cobbler?
So many choices.
That’s the story for most of us in the USA this year. However, in many homes across the USA – and certainly in the rest…
Merry Christmas from St Johns Michigan. This is a view of our main street downtown all decorated for Christmas.
This small town has so much to offer year round but it is especially beautiful this time of year.
The stores down town have a decorating contest. So many unique shops.
There is the Adorn Mint Gift Shop. You can find all kinds of stocking stuffers here like earrings, candles, and the one I love is an beautiful glass etched with the state of Michigan outline.
And if you love candles (who doesn’t this time of year), you have to shop at the Kymora Kandles Outlet. I love this beautiful gift box loaded with candles.
But there is more than just candles here. Beautiful purses along with dozens of other gifts.
The Mint Door Boutique has many one of a kind clothing and a nice line of shoes to choose from.
If all that shopping (and there are many more stores to choose from) makes you hungry, stop and grab a cupcake from Cupcakes and Kisses St Johns. All the delicious items in this bakery are made from scratch with real butter, sugar and eggs.
And for your chocolate lovers, you must make a stop at Oh Mi Organics. The store carries 180+ flavors and its chocolate is all gluten, dairy, peanut free. They even have vegan options. I can verify that their chocolate is beyond description. This is one store I always take my visitors to and buy them some chocolate.
One of my favorite places to stop and relax while shopping is the Global Coffee Shop. The shop has a map of the world. The owner encourages us to think about where our coffee comes from – what’s in a cup of coffee, how it got there, and why it tastes the way it does. She says “Here, everything about the coffee matters – from the people, the origin, the elevation of the farm, and the processing, all the way to the meticulous brew.” I love to sit in the corner of the shop and sip my coffee while watching the people walk by.
Another very special treasure in this small town is the Art and Soul Art Gallery. Sponsored by the Clinton County Arts, this store promotes, encourages and supports the artist in Clinton County, Michigan. While you would expect an art gallery to sell beautiful paintings, the art here includes much more than that. You can find pottery, jewelry, scarfs, quilts, books as well as many beautiful paintings. My own husband has some of his paintings there.
You can end your day by enjoying a good meal. There is Main Street Cafe, Domino’s Pizza, Main Street Pizza and our latest addition, St Johns Brewing Company.
We may be a small town, but there is no need to fight the large crowds at the malls or in the larger cities. Just visit my small town. You will love it!
Christmas 2019 is history. My decorations are all back in the boxes and the boxes are all in the storage area in the basement where they will sit until next December. Here and there I see a few houses with Christmas lights still up but most of my neighbors have removed all the reindeer, snowmen and nativity sets from their yards.
Gifts have been given. Some were, no doubt, a big hit. Others may have been a disappointment. Store clerks have been busy at the return counters.
Children are counting down the days until they have to return to school while many are heading back to work after a few vacation days.
Here and there I hear comments about the letdown after Christmas. It is understandable that after all the shopping, decorating, baking, parties and family gatherings, going back to the “normal” routine of life can be a bit of a anticlimax.
But I have to wonder: If we really understood the true meaning of what we just celebrated – that God Himself came to earth to make things right with us – to restore a right relationship with Him – to bring us His peace – why would we experience such a letdown.
Did we not really “get it?” The real meaning of Christmas has nothing to do with the decorations, the gifts, the parties, the family gatherings. It has everything to do with our relationship with this little baby that grew to a man, died and rose again.
Having just celebrated that fact – should not our hearts be filled with joy?
Perhaps the problem is we hear a lot about keeping Christ in Christmas. What we really need to do is keep Christmas in Christ. Christmas is only a date on the calendar. Christ is our source of joy year long.
There were some shepherds living in the same part of the country, keeping guard throughout the night over their flocks in the open fields. Suddenly an angel of the Lord stood by their side, the splendor of the Lord blazed around them, and they were terror-stricken. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid! Listen, I bring you glorious news of great joy which is for all the people. This very day, in David’s town, a Savior has been born for you. He is Christ, the Lord. Let this prove it to you: you will find a baby, wrapped up and lying in a manger.”
This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.
Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.
A few years ago our youngest granddaughter was given a beautiful carousel. As she watched the beautiful colors and the animals go round and round she could not resist reaching out and touching them. In the process, she broke one of them and the carousel would not work.
Her mother and father both tried to fix it, but could not. But she was not worried. She told them to take it to Papa because “Papa can fix anything.”
When my husband got the carousel he knew he had to fix it because he could not disappoint the faith in him that this little girl had.
However, in his attempt to fix the carousel, he actually broke another one of the animals and now he had not one, but two errors on the carousel.
What to do?
He first went on line and tried to find the company that made the carousel to see if they had replacement parts or instructions on how to repair it. While the company still was in business, they no longer made the original carousel and had no replacement parts or instructions on how to repair it.
He then began calling all the repair shops, the jewelry stores, any place he thought might be able to help him.
After several weeks of trying to find someone to repair the carousel he saw an ad for a store that sold and repaired watches and clocks. The store was in a small town some 30 miles north of our home. Quickly he drove to the store with the carousel. What a relief when the owner said he could repair it!
My husband was so glad he left the carousel with the owner without even asking what it would cost.
A couple of weeks later he got a call that the carousel was fixed. The price tag was much higher than he had anticipated – but what price can be placed on a little girl’s faith in you.
It was worth all the effort and every penny as we watch her each Christmas still be so enchanted by the lights, the music and the animals turning round and round.
And of course, she had to buy Papa a cup to declare how true it is that “Papa can fix anything.”
Recently I posted about the “real” story of that first Christmas. How different it was from the beautiful Christmas cards we see where everything is so neat and tidy and there are beams of light coming from Jesus and sometimes even from Mary and Joseph.
Today I wonder if we truly understand the “complete” story of Christmas.
What is the complete story of Christmas? Is it more than angels appearing to shepherds? Is it more than wise men from the East bringing gifts?
We read in Philippians of the complete story of Christmas – what it is really all about.
“Jesus has always been as God is. But He did not hold to His rights as God. He put aside everything that belonged to Him and made Himself the same as a servant who is owned by someone. He became human by being born as a man. After He became a man, He gave up His important place and obeyed by dying on a cross. Because of this, God lifted Jesus high above everything else. He gave Him a name that is greater than any other name. So when the name of Jesus is spoken, everyone in heaven and on earth and under the earth will bow down before Him. And every tongue will say Jesus Christ is Lord. Everyone will give honor to God the Father.”
The complete Christmas story is summed up in John 3:16:
“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.”
The complete story of Christmas is about you. It’s about how much God loves you.
Right from the beginning God’s love has reached, and from the beginning man has refused to understand. But God keeps on reaching. Today, after two thousand years, patiently, lovingly, Christ is reaching out to us. Right through the chaos of our world, through the confusion of our minds. He is reaching…longing to share with us…the very being of God.
It’s my prayer this Christmas that you see beyond the baby in the manager to the savior on the cross and the empty tomb.
The beauty of that night was not a calm, serene setting with radiant beams emitting from or around the baby. The beauty of that night was how clearly it showed the love of God – sending His son not to the king’s palace or the rich man’s house, but to a dirty, cold, dark stable.
What a beautiful picture we have of that first Christmas! Mary and Joseph, dressed in plain, but neat, clothes. The baby is wrapped in a clean blanket and the shepherds and Wise Men all stand or sit on the clean straw. And one of our most beloved Christmas carols make it all sound so peaceful and clean.
Silent Night, Holy Night, All is calm, all is bright
But was it a silent night? Was all calm and bright?
According to the Gospel of Luke, Mary and Joseph had just made a long trip from their home town of Nazareth to Bethlehem. This would not be considered a “long” trip today. It is approximately 100 miles and MapQuest says it can be made in less than two hours. However, at the time of Jesus’ birth, travel would have been on foot on rough roads with no Holiday Inn or…